One of my biggest goals this year is to start interviewing artists here on the blog! I love to pick the brain of other artists; often times I find that they have the same thoughts and views as I do about things, and that’s always awesome to find in people you admire. Today, for my first artist interview, I’d like to introduce you to the work of Rob Ebben. I came across him on DeviantArt, and fell in love with his artwork. The softness of his portraits, how full of life and emotion they are. Just beautiful. Not to mention his technical expertise – looking at the details in his work is one of my favorite parts; there is just so much to take in! I hope you enjoy his art (I’ve picked just a few of my favorites from his gallery), and getting to know him a bit as an artist.
1. How old were you when you knew that art would be a permanent part of your life?
Rob Ebben: I would say when I was about seven years old I really took notice to art. I used to draw comic strips of my own after seeing them in the newspaper. I would also write little stories complete with illustrations. I never really showed them to anyone, just kept them to myself, but I was definitely hooked. It wasn’t until I was in High School that I was brave enough to show my art to anyone. The unexpected praise from schoolmates and teachers kind of added fuel to my artistic fire.
2. Do you consider art your career, or more of a hobby?
Rob: Most definitely a hobby. I like the freedom to draw what I want, when I want. I worked for a small company designing t-shirts and I had to draw things two or three times to please a client. I also had to work with deadlines which was very stressful which led to rushed work, so needless to say it was a very short-lived career for me. I HAVE shown my work at a few art shows which to me is a thrilling experience. Instant feedback from people, critiques from art lovers, I usually sit back and listen what people have to say.
3. Did you attend college or university for art? Do you think that has a big weight in how successful an artist can be?
Rob: My only training was High School Art class. I had a very unique teacher who grew up and studied art in Italy. He was full of great ideas and projects for the class to digest and always kept things fresh. After High School was over I started drawing at a furious rate and realized there is no substitute for practice in improving your talents. The four years of art classes taught me much, but with art you never really stop improving. Do I regret not pursuing art at a college level? It’s hard to say. I’m sure there is much theory to be learned but I’m happy with what I know and what I learn after completing each drawing.
4. What is your favorite medium to work with, and what supplies do you prefer?
Rob: My favorite mediums are graphite pencil and colored pencil. I am 48 years old and up until three years ago I used nothing but graphite. Everything was in grey scale. I started to see reference photos I wanted to draw and thought, “This would look so much better in color” so I started playing with color and was instantly hooked. I now have the luxury to see a photo I would like to try to draw and choose black and white OR color. Graphite is still my first choice. I love the look and the way I can work and control its application. I have dabbled in pastel chalk and I love the vibrant colors you can achieve. My goal is to slowly move into oil paint but i am treating colored pencil as a stepping stone to understanding color. When I am comfortable with color i will give oil paint a go. On the side I have also embraced Digital Art. While it may be fun, I much prefer art I can touch. My supplies? I love pencils made by a company called Kimberly but brand isn’t real important with graphite. I use a wide range from the hardest leads (2H-8H) to the softest darkest pencils (2B-6B). I also love mechanical pencil because you always have a sharp point. In my opinion there is only ONE colored pencil. They are called “polychromos” and they are made by Faber Castell. They are expensive, but if you are serious about colored pencils, spend the money and get the 120pc. set. If I wouldn’t have tried these I would have never pursued color. Cheaper brands can be waxy and frustrating to work with. The polychromos are oil based and go on smooth and blend incredibly well. They even can be erased to a certain degree, I just love them.
5. Do you listen to music while you create? If so, what?
Rob: I absolutely won’t draw without music. My art teacher started this. He would play old Italian classics during class and I grew to realize it really does help focus. The music all depends on my mood haha. Ive played drums for many many years so I am a music lover (and hoarder.) I have an obscene music collection.
6. What is your favorite subject for your art (for example, human, animal, abstract, etc)?
Rob: First and foremost I love portraits. I love drawing hair, eyes, and hands. I love studying faces, expressions, and emotion and trying to portray them to paper. My gallery started looking rather repetitive with female portraits, so i started experimenting with still life and landscape. I also love dogs, particularly Chihuahuas, so I had some fun doing a few of my friends dogs.
7. What is your favorite fuel for an art session?
Rob: Fuel meaning what gets me motivated? Seeing my friends art on Deviantart is a huge motivator for me. I will send a WIP (work in progress) photo to a friend to get feedback or some critique. Sometimes I will struggle with a technique or texture and run it by them and go from there. To me the best comment I can get from someone is for them to say “I could tell that was one of your drawings by the style”. I love that I achieved a style people can recognize apart from others.
8. What is something you wish you knew when starting out with art?
Rob: I wish I knew patience early on. I used to start drawings one after the other and get aggravated fairly quick. I found with my art, especially colored pencil, you have to really stick to a drawing. My color drawings tend to look awful at the beginning but at one point it will really start taking shape. So yes…patience. Its also nice that I can afford the quality materials…art can actually be a very affordable hobby in the long run.
9. What is your biggest piece of advice for another artist?
Rob: Draw what you like and it will stay fun. Practice practice practice. Don’t get frustrated; art is a life long learning experience. Try new mediums and mix them, see what you can come up with.
10. Will you share a few artists you admire?
Rob: Awww so many. If you Google these names I’m sure you will fall for their work. Frank Frazetta for his use of oil paint, color, and subject matter. Steve Hanks for his mastery of water color. Jon David Kassan for his stunning realistic portrait work. Those are my top three.
Rob was kind enough to send along a photo of his workspace to share too. It might me just me, but I always love to see another persons creative space!
Thank you, Rob, for answering my questions and for being my first interview!